Alexander Vilenkin

Tufts University


Primary Section: 13, Physics
Secondary Section: 12, Astronomy
Membership Type: Member (elected 2020)

Biosketch

Alex Vilenkin is a physicist recognized for his work on the early universe cosmology.  He is known particularly for his studies of topological defects, eternal cosmic inflation, quantum cosmology, and for the theory of chiral magnetic and chiral vortical effects.
Vilenkin was born in the city of Kharkov (former Soviet Union) and graduated from the Kharkov State University in 1971 with a degree in physics.  He immigrated to the US in 1976 and got his Ph.D. from SUNY Buffalo the following year. After a year as a post-doc at Case Western Reserve University, he joined the faculty of Tufts University where he is currently L. and J. Bernstein Professor of Evolutionary Science. He also serves as Director of the Tufts Institute of Cosmology.  Vilenkin is a fellow of the American Physical Society and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

Alex Vilenkin’s research has concentrated in three main areas: cosmic strings, inflationary models, and quantum cosmology.  Cosmic strings could be formed as linear defects in the early universe and could produce a variety of observational effects at the present time.  Vilenkin and collaborators investigated the formation, evolution and observational signatures of strings, such as bursts of gravitational waves and high-energy particles. 
Cosmic inflation is a period of rapid, accelerated expansion in the early universe.  It ended in our local region about 14 billion years ago, but Vilenkin showed that it likely continues outside of this region and never ends in the entire universe.  He studied possible observational tests of this eternal inflation scenario.  With A. Borde and A. Guth Vilenkin proved that even though inflation is likely eternal to the future, it must have a beginning in the past.  He showed that an inflating universe could spontaneously originate by a quantum process similar to quantum tunneling.  Vilenkin has also developed the theory of chiral magnetic and chiral vortical effects, which have a variety of applications in cosmology and condensed matter physics.

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